Defining the White Truffle
The white truffles are valued among astute food enthusiasts. It has a unique aroma and strong earthy flavor that transforms pasta, egg dishes, and rice. An 18th-century connoisseur in food Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin acknowledged the white truffle’s value, and he called it the “diamond of the kitchen.”
Truffles are tubers that usually grow a few inches underground. They are believed to flourish close to the roots of hardwood trees like chestnut, oaks, and hazelnut. All truffles are highly valued; however, Alba’s white truffle, especially a specific species known as the tuber magnatum, is the most preferred because of its extraordinary aroma. They are generally knobby, have a firm flesh with a pale golden color. White truffles are in high demand because they are larger (around 9 centimeters in diameter), have top quality taste, and limited in quantity.
The Difference Between White and Black Truffles
All over the world, there are many known truffle species, but less than ten are eaten. Of these ten, two dominate the conversation: black truffles and white truffles. Before investing in a fresh shaving of the fungi on your pasta, it would be best to know the difference between the two.
Here are the critical differences between White and Black Truffles:
Appearance and taste
White truffles are usually smooth with a small yellow tinge. Between the two, the white truffle taste is spicier, has a heady musk and garlicky aroma. The taste and smell of white truffles can overwhelm a dish and are usually used sparingly as a garnish.
On the other hand, the black truffles have a rough, firm exterior like that of tree bark. Their flavor is more subtle than that of white truffles. They also have an earthy aroma and taste similar to the aroma with a hint of nutty notes. The black truffles usually blend well into sauces.
Geography and season
White truffles have remained regional despite many attempts to domesticate and grow them in different parts of the globe. You’ll only find them in Piedmont and Tuscany Italy and a few parts of southern France and Croatia. Their season runs from September to January. The peak harvesting season is between October and November.
As for black truffles, they have been successfully grown in other regions in Europe, Australia, and Northern California in the US. They are originally from Perigord, France. The secret is the trees that the truffle flourishes around. Their harvest season runs from December to March. Peak harvesting season is between January and February.
White truffles cost more than black truffles. The white truffle price per pound is over 320 USD, and it fluctuates according to the season. Their price is high because of their rarity and being regional. On the other hand, black truffles are slightly cheaper because they can grow on farms with inoculated trees. You can get a pound of black truffles for around 80 USD.
By-Products of White Truffles
You can find several white truffle by-products, including:
- White truffle butter – you can whip it into mashed potatoes or stuff under the chicken or turkey skin before roasting. Alternatively, you can stir it into mac n’ cheese, pasta, or rice. The good thing about white truffle butter is that it preserves the truffle flavor.
- White truffle oil – you can apply the white truffle oil for several uses in the kitchen as per your preference.
When is White Truffle Season?
White truffle season usually runs from September to December when they grow wildly in the forests. They mainly grow in Alba, a small town in Piemonte. They specifically grow at the heart of Langhe’s forests, which is fertile and strategically located between the Tanaro and Po Rivers.
Growing and Harvesting White Truffles
As mentioned earlier, white truffles grow under particular conditions and have remained regional for a while now. It is challenging to grow them at first, but you’ll reap the benefits once they are successfully established. Follow these steps to grow white truffles:
- Plant inoculated trees (tree seedlings treated with the truffle fungi) on the plot where you want to grow the truffles. You can get the trees from a truffle farmer or garden supplier that deals in fungi.
- Test the soil for acidity because truffles flourish in alkaline soil with a pH between 7.5 and 7.9.
- Till (plow the land in preparation for planting) the soil deeply and add a 3-inch layer of compost manure. Add hydrated lime as per the results of your soil test.
- Plant sapling trees in early spring when they are still dormant and water them regularly. Truffles will begin growing after around five years. You’ll probably see bulges in the ground when they start to grow.
- You’ll harvest the truffles carefully using a strong stick to dig them out. Farmers might need truffle dogs to sniff them out. Truffle hunters usually train the truffle dogs from puppyhood to detect the distinctive scent. Initially, the hunters used pigs, but they realized the pigs also loved the white truffles.
White Truffle Mac and Cheese Recipe to Try at Home
Cooking Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 35 minutes
Yield: 6 servings
- ½ pound pasta, cooked to al dente
- 2-3 cremini mushroom stems, trimmed and finely chopped
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 2 tablespoons flour
- 1 ½ cups milk
- ½ cup heavy cream or half and half (half whole milk, half heavy cream)
- ½ cup evaporated milk (to keep the sauce creamy)
- 2 teaspoons truffle oil
- ¾ teaspoon truffle salt or to taste
- ½ pound truffled soft goat cheese
- 1 cup shredded, sharp cheddar cheese
- 3 tablespoons bread crumbs
- Truffle oil to taste
- Truffle salt to taste
- Fresh cracked black pepper to taste
- Preheat the oven to 3250F. Evenly butter a gratin (a dish with a lightly browned crust of breadcrumbs or melted cheese) or your baking dish.
- Sauté the finely chopped mushrooms in a dry saucepan, stirring continuously until the mushrooms lose their moisture and start to turn dark. Add the butter and flour and cook for about two minutes. Please don’t let it turn brown.
- Gradually add the milk, cream, and evaporated milk and stir to combine. Turn the heat high and stir continually as the mixture cooks. Cook the mixture until it comes to a simmer and thickens. It would be best not to let it come to a boil.
- Remove the mixture from the heat, add the truffle oil and salt and allow it to cook for a minute.
- Add the cheese and stir until the cheese melts and the sauce is smooth. Fold in the cooked pasta and turn it into your prepared pan.
- Moisten the breadcrumbs with the truffle oil and add a pinch of truffle salt. You can add some fresh cracked pepper if preferred. Sprinkle the crumbs over the pasta.
- Cook the mac and cheese for around 20 minutes or until it bubbles. If you prefer a crispy cheese crust, run it under the broiler shortly; you ought to be extra careful so it doesn’t burn.
- Serve the mac and cheese immediately.
This article sheds a lot of light on the white truffle vs. black truffle debate. However, it has leaned more towards white truffles. After reading it, you can now tell where they originated from, where they grow best, and some by-products.
You also learn how to prepare homemade mac and cheese from the simple recipe shared. However you like to eat white truffles, please be sure to enjoy them!